India’s Covid policy was a disaster waiting to happen

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021 00:00 | By
Moderna Covid-19 vaccine has 94 per cent efficacy. Photo/Courtesy

Ankita Mukhopadhyay       

My Covid-19 resources group on WhatsApp is getting requests every second for oxygen, anti-viral drugs and hospital beds.

All I can do is wonder how the Indian government botched the pandemic response.

It had a year to prepare for the new wave. But when 2021 began, it became complacent, dismantling temporary isolation centres, easing social distancing and lockdown measures, despite warning signs of a next wave and new variants.

India has always had a gap in capacity vs need in its healthcare system. Experts have warned about it for years. But India’s leaders were overconfident that Hinduism, temples and defiance of Covid would “kick” the virus out of the country.

On March 20, Premier Narendra Modi, a “hero” for many, addressed the nation and urged people to stay at home to prevent another lockdown. While he tried hard to glorify India’s response to the current wave of Covid infections, he didn’t share any plans for an immediate investment in healthcare.

The government now blames opposition states for mismanaged response. This level of dirty politics is endangering lives of every Indian.

Had UK PM Boris Johnson been able to visit India this month, he would have seen a country that doesn’t give a damn about social distancing or wearing of face masks. Some people went as far as to maintain that the virus had left India.

Indians believed they could fight the virus by relying on uncertified medicines and remedies advertised on WhatsApp.

During the lull, a new mutant of the virus emerged, while medical experts and doctors continued to warn about a new Covid wave. The government turned a blind eye to everything.

Soon, people were frantically making calls to politicians, bureaucrats and other influential people to pull strings and save their families. The unlucky watched their kin die.

I was a victim of this new wave. My father-in-law wasn’t admitted to a hospital on time, which led him to develop pneumonia. He eventually died on Thursday.

Not many are lucky enough to even get a hospital bed. Hospitals in New Delhi are overflowing, with some patients sharing a bed.

The less fortunate ones are dying in hospital corridors or ambulances. Oxygen and anti-viral drugs are being hoarded on the black market and innocent people are shelling out a lot of cash to secure scarce resources.

Almost every Indian has a heartbreaking story to share about the new Covid wave. Healthcare infrastructure has crumbled under the weight of thousands of cases. Doctors are working on limited sleep and energy, while hospitals are using microbiologists to fill in for doctors, owing to scarcity in medical workforce.

India’s crisis management is probably the worst in the world right now, but the government believes pumping money into election rallies with thousands of people and revamping central administrative area will fetch more laurels than saving people.

Instead of admitting obvious shortcomings and taking concrete steps, the government has stooped so low as to openly deny it has failed, and even countered recommendations on handling the pandemic.

The thing that astounds the most right is that politicians are hoarding vials of remdesivir, refusing to share data on India’s home-made vaccine and overlooking the fact that the virus is literally airborne.

Indians need to hold the government accountable, instead of pandering to their usual brand of religious politics. Religious divisions aren’t destroying India, gross administrative negligence is. — The writer is DW’s reporter

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